B. 1943 (age 77) Michigan, USA.
Emory Douglas was Minister of Culture at The Black Panther Party for its active years – 1966 to 1982.
The distinctive visual look of the Black Panther Party resulted from the creative direction of Douglas – and that’s a BIG achievement because their visual game was strong.
His distinctive, stylised graphics and printed-poster-art aesthetic helped a message to be quickly understood. It perfectly complemented the party’s bold and clear communique highlighting the struggle of African-Americans regarding structural and institutional racism, the fight not being in Vietnam but in their US homeland, police brutality, oppression and inequality.
Their posters, pamphlets and newspaper, The Black Panther – of which Douglas was Art Director – became the party’s most potent and effective weapon, the newspaper selling 300,000 copies a week at its peak in 1970.
It was protest art and his work served the party’s program of armed activism and revolution: their ‘plot for progress’.
Although pre-1969, the party advocated masculinity and traditional gender roles, this soon changed, and women took leadership too. Everyone was active and, in turn, depicted in his work as bad-ass icons against sunburst motifs, their regulation Remington shotgun either at their side or leading the charge. The whole community – including the elderly and children – took a starring role – it was an egalitarian movement and artistic approach.
The dissemination of their printed material via their state Chapters was a well-oiled campaign. These creative outputs soon facilitated a coherent and consistent voice that rang loud and clear across the United States.
It was instantly recognisable. NOTHING looked or sounded like The Black Panther Party – nor has it since.
The spirit, ideology and culture of the Black Panther Party are kept alive today by the graphics Emory Douglas created. A visual archive of a moment in time and a spirit – and struggle – that still endures; in the words of The Black Panther Party itself:
SEIZE THE TIME.
REVOLUTION IN OUR LIFETIME.
Photos taken at the pop-up exhibition: Beyond the Streets by Roger Gastman, NYC 2019.